286. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Call of President Sukarno on the President


  • The President
  • Acting Secretary of State Douglas Dillon
  • Acting Assistant Secretary of State John M. Steeves
  • Brig. Gen. Goodpaster, The White House
  • President Sukarno of Indonesia
  • Foreign Minister Subandrio of Indonesia

After the formal exchange of greetings President Eisenhower recalled that the last time they had met was during President Sukarno’s official visit to the United States.1

[Page 556]

President Sukarno remarked that the passage of five years found them both older but he congratulated President Eisenhower on his healthful appearance. This was in response to the President’s remark that he had undergone three rather severe illnesses since they last met.

The President took the initiative in raising the matter of the resolution sponsored by the five neutral powers in the United Nations, of which Indonesia was one. The President assured Sukarno that he did not question their motive, in fact he was 100% in accord with the objective they were trying to serve. He dwelt on the theme that the armaments race and general tension was leading to a most unsatisfactory situation and that anyone who desired peace and tranquillity could not help but be disturbed by this growing confrontation. The President explained to Sukarno why the gesture of merely getting together with Khrushchev was futile and in our view productive of further tension rather than a lessening of it. He said that over the weekend he had given very serious thought as to what his own personal attitude ought to be and what stance the United States should take. He realized that Khrushchev disliked him intensely personally. Khrushchev had acted with extreme rudeness, but even with all of this if there was anything that could be served by the President humbling himself and setting aside his personal feelings, he of course should be very happy to do it. At this point in the conversation Sukarno told the President that the neutrals of course had withdrawn their resolution last night at the United Nations because they were not receptive to the amendments suggested by Australia. Sukarno said he felt that a meeting between the two if it had accomplished nothing else would break the ice.

The President went on to explain the situation after the U–2 incident and the meeting in Paris. He made reference to the fact that the revelation that we were conducting such operations as the U–2 was not any great new news to the Soviets. This was one of the facts of life that had been recognized between the two powers for some time, but even with this knowledge if Khrushchev felt that this U–2 incident prevented their getting together and necessitated the cancellation of his visit to Russia that he could have said so in Moscow. He did not need to come to Paris in order to make his position clear. It was therefore obvious that Khrushchev was determined to make as much propaganda as possible out of the breakup in Paris. He knew, for instance, that it would be impossible for the President of the United States to meet his demands for an apology. The President also remarked to Sukarno that the accident of the location of the United Nations placed Khrushchev in the United States but that this fact had no practical bearing on their getting together. If it had not been for the United Nations meeting there would of course be no possibility of Khrushchev being invited to the United States. Khrushchev’s being in the United States therefore seemed to appear to [Page 557] many as a natural opportunity to get together which really was not true. He was as “distant” as though he were still in Moscow. The President returned to the point of assuring Sukarno that it was only the firm conviction that nothing would be accomplished which caused him to reject the idea of a meeting and that he wanted Sukarno to understand it.

Sukarno maintained his viewpoint that they should and that part of the conversation ended.

The President then turned to ask Sukarno about Indonesia and how they were getting along. Sukarno said they were making progress. He said, for instance, in 1955 they were producing about 5-1/2 million tons of rice, now it is seven million. In 1955 they were importing a million tons of rice, now it is 250,000 tons. He said that his planning people tell him that by 1965 they should be self-sufficient, this despite the fact that their population is now 92 million as against 72 million when they gained independence. In response to a question about their literacy, he pointed out that at the inception of independence illiteracy was 94%, it is now 40%, by 1965 it would be zero. He gave some other interesting statistics on education. In 1949 there were only three-quarters of a million students mostly in the elementary grades, now there are eight million students in schools, with a very large growth in their high schools during this period. He made personal reference to the fact that when he was studying engineering he was one of eleven students in the university grades or in higher technical studies. Today they have 55,000 in the universities. The President asked Sukarno about the USS Hope which was on its way to Indonesia. Sukarno said they would certainly welcome it and he would take the opportunity to visit it. In talking of Indonesia’s health problem with specific reference to malaria, he said that Indonesia had probably made the most progress of any country in southern Asia in abolishing malaria and that by 1965 they hoped to have it eliminated.

Turning to economics Sukarno explained their eight-year plan which was to cost 250 billion rupiahs. There was some difficulty translating this into dollars due to the uncertain value of the rupiah. He said that by 1965 they would have their own blast furnaces. Sukarno reminded the President that the United States had its initial problems too and that they were therefore not particularly discouraged with the many problems they face now. The President humorously responded, what do you mean “used to have our problems, we have plenty now”. He recalled that a philosopher had said that “when the human family successfully eliminates its difficulties it will die”. He referred to Gibbon’s History of the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire and said that Rome fell because it had seemingly eliminated its problems. It became soft and thus deteriorated.

Sukarno said he was most disappointed that the President had never visited Indonesia. The President very tactfully pointed out that in [Page 558] both of the trips which he made into various parts of Asia the problem turned out to be one of time, that in a large country like Indonesia he could not stop for a mere courtesy call as he had done in some small countries but that he felt it would be insulting to come to Indonesia unless he could have stayed a week. He told Sukarno that he was most anxious to come and that next year he was going to be a private citizen, and if Indonesia would give him a visa he would think very seriously of coming to Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand, an area he was most anxious to visit. Sukarno smilingly turned to Subandrio and told him to make sure that the President got his visa.

The President told Sukarno he wanted to return to the discussion of the United Nations. He specifically mentioned the Congo. He said that prior to Sukarno’s arrival, during his two trips to the United Nations, he had talked to African leaders. He had, for instance, been very impressed by Olympio2 and he had also talked with Bourguiba’s son. He explained to Sukarno that a situation such as we faced in the Congo simply had to be handled by the United Nations and that those contributing forces to the security force must ensure that they were subject to the United Nations command. Sukarno said that he accepted this completely and reminded the President that a battalion of Indonesian troops had just landed in the Congo and that they had been taken there by an American carrier. It was quite obvious that Sukarno was not willing to accept our interpretation of what was going on in the Congo and he asked the President if he had talked to Nkrumah, Sekou Toure3 and Kanza,4 the representative from the Congo. He made no reference to his support of Lumumba5 but at least agreed that the United Nations must be supported for this was the only way. The President assured him that the United States was staying strictly out of the internal complications, but merely wanted the Congolese to be able to settle their own internal affairs without outside interference.

The President asked Sukarno if they had their own airlines and he said that the Garuda Airlines were the Indonesian national airlines; however for long trips he preferred Pan American. For this trip he had chartered a jet 707. The President recounted the early days of Pan American and the clippers that crossed the Pacific taking five days instead of a few hours now.

Sukarno asked the President where he was going to live when he retired. He said Gettysburg but he knew that having travelled and been [Page 559] as busy as he had been that he must still think of being very active. He thought he might write a book, travel a few months every year and do a bit of painting. Someone suggested some lectures, but he said emphatically he had done enough talking and this did not interest him. Sukarno responded that he too had been approached about lecturing in universities after his presidential days. He said he wasn’t interested.

The visit closed with the President showing Sukarno his paintings in his room and inviting in the entourage accompanying Sukarno. Prior to inviting the group in, pictures were taken.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 798.11/10–660. Secret. Drafted by Steeves and approved in U on October 13 and by the White House on November 22. Another memorandum of this conversation, drafted by Goodpaster, October 12, is in Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries. See Supplement. Jones summarized this meeting in Indonesia: The Possible Dream, pp. 183–184. Steeves commented on the Sukarno visit in a letter to Jones, October 10. (Department of State, FE Files: Lot 62 D 26, Indonesia)
  2. Regarding Sukarno’s official visit to the United States in May 1956, see Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. XI, pp. 267273.
  3. Sylvanus E. Olympio, Prime Minister of Togo.
  4. President of Guinea.
  5. Thomas Kanza, the Congo’s Minister-designate to the United Nations.
  6. Patrice Lumumba, Prime Minister of the Congo.